HAMDEN — The Twitter notifications came over fast and furious Wednesday morning as NCAA’s Football Bowl and Championship Subdivision programs announced their first signees in the NCAA’s new early signing period for football. Plenty of Connecticut’s big high school football names got in on the fun when the period began at 7 a.m.
And then it was time to celebrate at signing day ceremonies across the state.
Xavier quarterback Will Levis, of Madison, kicked things off when he made his Penn State signing official in front of a packed house at Xavier High School.
“Today is really exciting and the emotions I’m feeling today are amazing,” said Levis, a two-year starter who threw for 2,793 yards and 27 touchdowns this year and, to date, has earned All-State honors from the Connecticut High School Coaches Association and Walter Camp Football Foundation.
“To have all these people come and show support is overwhelming. It hasn’t hit me yet, but maybe when I get home it will. I just think I’m leaving here a better person than when I came.”
Later, Luke Schoonmaker, one of Levis’ former teammates at Xavier, gathered with friends and family at Hamden Hall to celebrate his signing with Michigan. The 6-foot-6, 225-pound tight end was joined at the front of the library by Hamden Hall receiver and Milford native David Spitz, who is committed to play at Harvard.
“The emotions right now… (I’m) really excited,” said Schoonmaker, an Old Saybrook native who will join Tarik Black, Ben Mason and Andrew Stueber as former Connecticut stars playing in Ann Arbor. “The hard work has paid off. There are so many people to be thankful for and it’s just an amazing time and an opportunity of a lifetime, really.”
Schoonmaker started as a quarterback at Xavier, transferred and played two years at Hamden Hall under coach Joe Linta. It was Linta’s friendship with Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown got the tight end a look and then an offer. Schoonmaker had 819 yards of total offense and scored three touchdowns as Hamden Hall went 10-1 and won back-to-back Class C NEPSAC Championships
“Yea, Donnie Brown… making the rounds through CT,” Schoonmaker said cheerfully. “I look forward to playing with Tarik and Ben and all those guys.”
Schoonmaker — whose father, Scott, is the superintendent of schools at North Branford — said he’s anxious to work on his new position with Michigan tight ends coach Greg Frey and Michigan junior Zach Gentry, who hosted Schoonmaker during his official visit and is also converted quarterback-to-tight end. “Working with him is going to be awesome,” Schoonmaker said of Gentry. “The tight ends coach is really going to help me with my blocking, my speed and agility.”
Spitz, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior, led Hamden Hall with 11 touchdowns and caught 24 passes for 519 yards. “I’ve always wanted to play in college,” Spitz said. “I never thought I’d be able to make it this far and play for a Division I program like Harvard. But I just really worked hard since freshman year. I was a 5-5, 110-pound receiver who didn’t see the field, but that just motivated me to work harder. I can’t thank everybody enough who helped me along the way.”
Ansonia first-team All-State running back Markell Dobbs signed with Central Connecticut State. Dobbs, who ran for 4,903 yards and 72 touchdowns for his career, including 2,406 yards and 32 touchdowns as a senior.
Capital Prep quarterback Kyle Zajack and Windsor All-State linebacker Shayne Manson joined Dobbs as early CCSU signees.
Two Connecticut all-staters who prepped at Deerfield Academy (Mass.) also made their college signings official. Michael Bevino, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound tight end and son of former Foran coach Jeff Bevino, signed with Colgate. Former Xavier lineman Niko Kvietkus, who was the 2017 NEPSAC lineman of the year, signed with the University of New Hampshire.
Travis Ecke, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound tight end at Cheshire Academy and son of former Cheshire High coach Mark Ecke, signed his letter of intent to play at Sacred Heart University.
E.O. Smith’s all-state end Rondell Bothroyd signed to play at Wake Forest. He originally committed to pay at Temple but switched his commitment early this month.
UConn picked up a strong in-state class. The Huskies signed Capital Prep’s Khyon Gillespie (RB) and Oneil Robinson (WR) as well as Wilbur Cross all-state lineman Travis Jones and East Hartford all-state linebacker Kevon Jones.
Madison’s Jesse Walsh, a linebacker at Avon Old Farms and the younger brother of UConn’s Matt Walsh, signed his letter of intent to attend West Point Military Academy and play football for Army, as did King School LB Evan Townsend-Henry.
Fairfield Prep graduate Bobby Haskins, a standout on the Jesuits’ football and basketball teams who went on to play at the Hun School in Princeton, N.J., signed his letter of intent to play offensive line at the University of Virginia.
Harding defensive lineman Daniel Daley and Rockville receiver/corner Tyler Allen signed letters with Bryant. St. Luke’s LB Ben Joseph signed with Monmouth.
Correction: Levis’ total passing yards this season was listed incorrectly. He threw for 2,793.